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“There is no way that you are ever going to convince me that this is a good movie.” – My Glorious Spouse, 2020

Here we are, at the precipice of greatness. Finally.

Let me tell you a story. A love story.

Back in the old days of chunky rental boxes of VHS tapes, I remember first seeing the glistening box in the Horror section of Movie Mania. Back in those times, children, one would hitch up their horse and cart, traveling three miles in the snow, uphill, to rent a free horror movie every Monday night. And, after the arduous trek back, would blow the dust from the VCR player and jam that precious tape in to watch a hidden relic of the past. And it was worth it. It was damn well worth it.

One of those Mondays was very special for me and was the day I watched “Surf Nazis Must Die”. I fell in love – hard.  I don’t want to say it changed my life, but here I am reviewing movies and getting paid, so you tell me, pal.

When I first met Glorious Spouse as an awkward teenager, this was a movie I shared on one of our dates. When I met new friends, I shared this. When I met GS’s friends, I shared this. It was not only a beautiful piece of schlock I admired to be shared, but also a litmus test; an endurance and reactionary experiment for me to gauge them. Did they see what I saw??? Could they feel what I felt?

No. Obviously. You saw the quote and obviously it wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it became the anathema I earned, as in, “Yeah, but you also think ‘Surf Nazis’ is good (so your opinion of movies is questionable)”.

Yeah, I did think it was good.

And you know what…I friggin’ still do.

So, my friends, let me try to open your mind and bring you into the nightmarish world of loss, madness, and revenge. In honor of Black History Month and in memory of Gail Neely, who played one of my favorite protagonists in all film history, I present to you: the review and exploration of Surf Nazis Must Die.

Let’s discuss

The Plot:

In the near future, a devastating earthquakes leaves the California coastline in shambles. The beaches are controlled by gangs, one of them being surf-friendly Neo-Nazis under the regime of “Adolf”, the self-proclaimed “Führer of the new beach”. Using the calamity and chaos to his advantage, he gathers the other gangs with the message of join his order or die on the sand. 

During the same tragedy of the earthquake, widower Eleanor Washington has lost her only home. Her adult son helps her into her new residence, a senior home, where she finds it difficult to adapt. She’s seen as a trouble-maker and instigator – smoking, gambling and not being complacent in her new rigid and infantilizing atmosphere.

The two stories intertwine when Mama Washington’s son is viciously murdered by Adolf and his gang. After losing the only thing in her life, Mama begins her descent into anger, madness and revenge against those who took her son’s life. Let it be known that Surf Nazis must die!!!  

The Nazis:

from my notes page

Most of the narrative is focused on the Surf Nazis and their interactions. Even the first shot is that of a young child, punk hair and cheeks painted with swastikas, shouting back cadenced authoritarian rhetoric to a stoic “Adolf”, within a group of other young children. Some of the Nazis have original Reich monikers like Eva, Adolf’s bitch (her words, not mine), and Mengele (the Valley-speaking Q who creates surfboard switchblades and whatnot). However, others do not share in the Nazi heritage: Brutus (the sensitive fighter), Hook (Alex from A Clockwork Orange meets Captain Hook), and Smeg (oh, I’ll talk about him later).

And then we have Adolf. Who is….dramatic. Laughably and adorably so. So much drama in this one. Drama and dreams. Dreams of leading all of the gangs of the beach (kind of like the beginning of Warriors, but as a Nazi d–head).

The Nazis live on the beach and in abandoned buildings, struggling through their existence by extorting other gangs, stealing from “normal” people, and eliciting the help of the young and dumb (we’ll get to Smeg, don’t worry). They are not powerful, really. They are sad. They are taunted by the other gangs. They sustain themselves by killing and eating wild pigs (?). And just as often as they band together, they tear each other apart. They are vicious and damaged. They are fumbling in their pursuit of power, and aimless in their violence. They have no agency, engagement, or efficacy.

The Mama:

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Enter our protagonist.  And yes, it could be easy to point out that there are certain characteristics, maybe even certain stereotypes, that are part of the “Mama” Washington character. She is a strong Black woman – Bible-carrying but is also sassy and sharp-as-tacks. She smokes cigars and gambles with her new friends at the senior home, telling them that she’s going to bring life into “them bitches”. 

I admit, there are almost Madea-esque traits, but I would say whereas the usual Older Black Female character is sometimes a cruel, shrieking portrayal with a touch of bitterness, Gail Neely plays Mama with so much heart and warmth, it’s hard not to be endeared by her performance. There are some moments of audacity, but it’s never cruel; it’s at the core of the character. There are genuine moments of tenderness and vulnerability within her strength and conviction. Gail Neely brings such life and grit to this character. She is an unconventional hero and badass. Yes, this character was written by a white male, but I believe it was done so with endearment to the character and her role as victim and avenger. 

And this is evident by the juxtaposition of her core concepts and motivations from the Nazis. She is the anti-Adolf. She is older. She is woman. She is Black. She is a nurturer and mother. She has purpose. She has agency. She has engagement with those around her. And you bet your sweet toots that she has efficacy. Mama Washington has power in her own life, even when she is deemed powerless (**see chainsaw vs tree scene**). She is the very opposite of Adolf and the Nazis, and it’s utterly surprising find something so rounded and in-depth in something so…Troma, let’s say?

The 21st Century Schizoid Man

There are really good shots in here. Really. Very clever camera work, no joke. I wrote that down a few times in my most recent viewing.

However, the most memorable and recognizable shot from the film is the Schizoid Man. In this incredibly dramatic point, Mama comes in first contact with one of the Nazis as he’s describing the death of her son. She grabs him and slams his head against a graffiti-painted wall. But it’s not just graffiti:

This is actually King Crimson’s album cover for 21st Century Schizoid Man, which is also featured as a song of general chaos, war imagery, death, destruction, and the desensitization of the human spirit from those elements. It was most likely written in response to the Vietnam War.

However, in this powerful moment, the art of the album is appropriated and re-contextualized. We see the pale head of a Neo-Nazi pushed against the mouth of a Black man, silently screaming in anguish. We see the older Black hand of a victim pushing the young and naïve racist perpetrator into that scream, into that direct confrontation of his superficial ideology and his subservient actions. During which, she becomes numb to the violence (and faceless) she is subjected and now a part of.

Just beautiful…

I could probably write forever about that scene. I could write forever about most scenes that feature Mama Washington because the incredible job that Gail Neely does. Let’s everyone take the day off of work to discuss how incredible her performances are!

Er….except this one…

The Homework: Thick Brain Roll Juice

I read up some for this one. I did my homework. Originally, I actually was going to argue that they aren’t really Nazis, but counter-culture, living in a depraved environment with limited resources because they are bored, “too hip” and white.

While some of that may be true (youpieceofcrapSmeg), the homework I did proved me wrong. Terrifyingly wrong.

It’s easy to watch this film for the laughs, for the fun, for the tie dye beach gang, Adolf’s awkward line reads, the gobs of slow-mo surfing, and Gail Neely’s poetic performance.

But the fact is that it’s not just a fun vacuum of cinematography and over-the-top acting. Watching this, it’s easy to dismiss this as a campy romp. Like I said, I was originally going to talk about turf wars and lack of seething resentment because they didn’t really strike me as Nazis. Assholes, yes. Nazis, no.

In fact, the very first paragraph of An Ethnographer Looks at Neo-Nazi and Klan Groups The Racist Mind Revisited by Raphael S. Ezekiel speaks exactly to that point and to my casual dismissal,

Americans today often learn about Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan through television clips of rallies or marches by men uniformed in camouflage garb with swastika armbands or in robes. These images often carry commentary implying that the racist people are particularly dangerous because they are so different from the viewer, being consumed by irrationality. The racists and their leaders are driven by hatred…

Raphael S. Ezekiel

The same can be said for the films that we watch, Surf Nazis Must Die included. How Hollywood portrays the Nazi (Neo- or otherwise) changes over time. Our limited scope of understanding changes with those waves of popular culture, whether one is the impact of the other.

In a paper by Geoffrey Cocks entitled Hollywood Über Allies: Seeing the Nazi in American Movies, Cocks describes the road to Surf Nazis and beyond in the public cinematic sphere:

By the late 1960s, a skeptical, critical, and even cynical consciousness about the contemporary world had entered even Hollywood. Newly empowered teenage consumers and the Vietnam draft made the American film Nazi-unlike 1940s war films-big antiwar box office material because the Nazi now stood for any totalitarian oppression for young radicals outraged by American racism and the war in Vietnam. Bank of America became Bank of Amerika, and police became “fascist pigs.”

The 1970s in America brought a wave of still more problematic interest in Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust, in which a mix of agnosticism, cynicism, hedonism, and nihilism prevailed over 1960s iconoclasm and idealism. The Nazi became a “floating signifier” for trivial fanaticism or madness: a “lawn Nazi,” a “feminazi,” a film demanding that Surf Nazis Must Die (Peter George, 1987)

From the 1980s on, ever more of international cinema hewed to the Flollywood-style entertainment movie. With the exception of a few films about American neo-Nazis, the Nazi and the German became less topical and central, even those about the war, and so tended to serve only the blandly realistic or the distantly metaphorical. But the Nazi yet retains his cinematic potency. 

The weakness in Tarantino’s postmodern play is the weakness that had been growing and maturing in film ever since the Second World War: cinema grows so self-referential, so caught up in the economic conversation between Hollywood and American culture, that it ceases to be critically reflective.

Cocks, Geoffrey. “Hollywood Über Alles: Seeing the Nazi in American Movies.” Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 45 no. 1, 2015, p. 38-53. Project MUSE muse.jhu.edu/article/589137.

So, let’s dumpster-dive into the history a little to separate fiction and fact, or maybe even find some similarities. Before the 80’s, when this movie was filmed, the KKK was the anchor for much of the white power movement and didn’t mix with the emerging Nazi party in the US. But then the 80’s came with its Flashdances, Reaganomics, and Rubicks Cubes, and the two more or less started to merge into a smelly shitstain of grossness, and “concepts/symbols started being used indiscriminately between the groups“. (Ezekiel, pg. 52)

Do people still get this reference?

This happened partly because “some separatists feel that the old Klan is a ‘dinosaur,’ not aggressive and technical enough in its approach of asserting dominance and power. This view has led to the formation of other divisions of hate groups.” (Anderson, James F., Laronistine Dyson, and Willie Brooks Jr. “Preventing hate crime and profiling hate crime offenders.” Western Journal of Black Studies 26.3 (2002): 140) By 1994, (four years before Surf Nazi’s first DVD release) different watchdog groups estimated hard-core militant membership around 23,000 to 25,000, with approximately 150,000 sympathizers who subscribed to the ‘zines, and another 450,000 people who read the issues for the articles but didn’t buy. (Ezekiel, pg. 52-53)

During that time, between 1955 and 1998, white racists were responsible for more than a third of deaths related to domestic terrorism between, excluding the 168 individuals killed in the Oklahoma City bombing (Parkin, William S., et al. “Ideological Victimization: Homicides Perpetrated by Far-Right Extremists.” Homicide Studies, vol. 19, no. 3, Aug. 2015, pp. 211–236, doi:10.1177/1088767914529952.). And people of color are more often. Just in 1997, of the hate crimes committed, 8,049 bias-motivated criminal incidents were reported. Of these incidents, 4,710 were motivated by racial bias (Anderson).

But…but surfing! And….fun! And….switchblade surfboards! They just silly-billy Nazis! 

Just a silly billy dude…

Sure, let’s talk about the group – it’s dynamics and how it operates.

As previously mentioned, the first shot of the movie is at youth gathering with Adolf, establishing the supremacy of the Surf Nazis as the masters of the beaches. In fact, that the beach is in a bitter and bloody turf war, mostly because of the Nazis, which isn’t that surprising: “The movement makes its claim, in the ideology, to a turf and declares its role as defending that turf.” “…an ideology that glorifies toughness and fears tenderness or nurturance as weakness.” (Ezekiel) And we’ll circle back to the high tension created by them, too, so put a pin in that.

Let’s first talk about the one who pulls it all together. Even with his campy flair for the dramatic, Adolf still manages to manipulate and lead his group and terrorize the other gangs. This is well-put by Ezekiel in a few different sections:

The power to attract members comes from the leader’s certainty and his capacity with words and body to be the living expression of the resentment and anger of the listeners. Moreover, he can make his listeners feel that they are part of something that is happening, that these are not empty words.

In most cases, the leader is not extremely racist. Racism is comfortable for him, but not his passion. At core, he is a political organizer. His motive is power. Racism is his tool. He feels most alive when he senses himself influencing men, affecting them.

His disrespect includes his followers. He respects only those, friend or foe, who have power. His followers are people to be manipulated, not to be led to better self-knowledge.

We see this demonstrated in different ways, like the way he treats Eva, the way he beats Mengele, and his general indifference to the others. He is aloof, but intense, drawing on each group’s fears and insecurities…via drama!

So dramatic!!!

Now let’s talk about “Smeg”.

I said I’d get to you…

He’s also a piece of shit who comes from a loving, providing, un-apocalyptic home. His mom even tucks him in at night as he whines that he can’t go and play with Adolf and the rest. This is where you realize that civilization hasn’t crumbled. People still live in nice middle-class homes. People still go to work. People watch TV. People drink New Coke. People are existing and thriving, not living in the beach slums, eating wild (?) pigs. And to do so is by choice.

The apocalyptic backdrop is a facade as a means to an end. The disruption of the earthquake actually means very little, as any situation real or imagined, will have the message of apocalypse, as it is a means for Adolf to control and manage the group to do his bidding: 

Any measure is justifiable in this war for survival. If innocent people die, it is unfortunate but a given in a war of survival. All this is heard repeatedly in leadership presentations, and its apocalyptic energy animates the larger movement gatherings.

EZEKIEL, RAPHAEL S. “An Ethnographer Looks at Neo-Nazi and Klan Groups: The Racist Mind Revisited.” American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 46, no. 1, Sept. 2002, pp. 51–71, doi:10.1177/0002764202046001005.

American Nazism’s historic preoccupation with society’s decay and racial erosion demonstrates its anticipation of the arrival of a catastrophic new millennium.

Brad Whitsel (2001) Ideological Mutation and Millennial Belief in the American Neo-Nazi Movement, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 24:2, 89-106, DOI: 10.1080/10576100117722

It’s not that the world is in chaos, the Nazi perceive and perpetuate the idea that the world is in chaos to justify their actions – whether its eating a wild pig (?), stealing a purse, or killing a Black man…

Let’s talk about Leroy’s Death (played by Robert Harden).

One study was particularly heartbreaking as it pieced a very tight puzzle to Leroy’s death in the movie to actual homicide victims of Neo-Nazis. Trigger warning; it’s really, really sad.

Victim–offender relationships show that 72.6% of victims had no prior knowledge of their killer(s)

99% [of racially targeted people] (or 59.2% of all victims) were killed because of something they represented, whether a specific race, religion, or even government. Here, the offender had no knowledge of the victim or their personal actions, only that they represented the population the offender was targeting.

Anti-race/ethnic minority victims were also killed more often by a knife, blunt object, or bodily weapon when compared with the anti-abortion and anti-government victims.

…almost 30% of anti-racial/ethnic minority victims were killed while walking or driving on the street.

These victims [racially motivated] had the most violent deaths. Often excessive force was used to beat them to death with blunt objects and bodily weapons. Mutilation and overkill were not uncommon.

The variance in overkill and modus operandi also could be a by product of a subculture of violence, such as those held by neo-Nazis and skinheads.

Parkin, William S., et al. “Ideological Victimization: Homicides Perpetrated by Far-Right Extremists.” Homicide Studies, vol. 19, no. 3, Aug. 2015, pp. 211–236, doi:10.1177/1088767914529952.

So….now what?

This is a very real reality that is still happening to this day, especially as the growth of hate groups and crimes have increased dramatically over the US, and even more, that they are changing. They may not be huge groups, but they are influential groups and they evolve. As two researchers put it:

Social movements in the cultic milieu are by no means stable, nor do their beliefs or organizational patterns remain constant.Rather, groups in this constellation tend to be ephemeral and are governed by a lifecycle process. Over time, these collectivities ultimately fractionate and, in doing so, give birth to new groups. The process is cyclical and facilitates the recycling of ideas (and groups). This continual process of cult birth, reformation, and death suggests that the cultic milieu is a permanent part of society, while the individual cult is a transitory phenomenon.

Brad Whitsel (2001) Ideological Mutation and Millennial Belief in the American Neo-Nazi Movement, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 24:2, 89-106, DOI: 10.1080/10576100117722

Low activity is not equivalent to no activity, particularly when white supremacist activity spikes in response to major social change like the election of the country’s first black president.

Cooter, A. (2011), Neo‐Nazi Nationalism. Stud Ethn Nation, 11: 365-383. doi:10.1111/j.1754-9469.2011.01126.x

As fun and campy as this movie is, it is based on fact and fantasy. Unfortunately, in real life, Mamas don’t get to but guns that “take a head off a honkey in twenty paces” and exact revenge. They exist in a culture that created the killer and perpetuates racism (whether loud or quiet) via complacency and institutionalized undertones. And do so, in our norms and conventions, silently.

(Ahem)

And it’s easy to be complacent and to not understand the institutional affect when you’re far-removed. It’s a understandable reaction to watch this movie and not identify with any of the Nazis because they are so extreme. They cannot be us. We don’t kill people. We don’t paint swastikas on our surfboards.

For example, my board has Knight Rider era ‘Hoff

But…I just want to have fun and watch my movie 🙁 

Of course watch this movie and have fun! Watch the hell out of it – I love it! Remember, this is a love story. Enjoy the camp, enjoy the revenge and goofy surfing. It’s there for you to enjoy and love as your own.

But it’s also a great moment to contemplate, to take a step back and think, especially for us honkeys (we honkeys?). Some great advice for this can, of course, be found in multiple sources, but taking from Ezekiel’s final thoughts on the matter in his paper on Neo-Nazism in America:

Probably the greatest effect of White racism today is its capacity to slow institutional change. Policies that help institutional racism to continue to flourish do much more to hurt minority people than do hate crimes.

And it is worth noting that the neo-Nazis are not totally alien to White Americans. A social attitude does not exist in the mind as an isolated single entity. Real attitudes, or orientations, are laid down throughout life in layer after layer.

The task is to get acquainted with those layers of oneself—to learn to recognize them and not be frightened by them. It is not a disgrace to have absorbed some racism. It is a disgrace not to know it and to let those parts of ourselves go unchecked.

It’s easy not to have a switchblade swastika board, but it’s becomes convoluted if you defend saying the n word, or roll your eyes at #whiteoscars. Its the latter that fuels the former and is the foundation on which its built. 

The Bottom-line:

Oh…you’re still here? That’s surprising. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Don’t judge me.

When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. John Combo

    February 29, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Even the trailer is awesome! They actually put this in line with The Road Warrior and The Terminator! I’m not even sure if they weren’t trying to be serious! Awesome review!

  2. Patricia Dartt

    March 1, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    Awesome review. Actual thought on the movie not just glossed over fun or not fun. Not just talk about the visual aspects or acting. I like that you really researched here. You also mentioned the typical acting and cinematography and fun factors anyone would expect. Good job.

  3. Pingback: When Films Go Too Far I Can Help - Haunted MTL

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Movies n TV

She Will, a Film Review

She Will is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Charlotte Colbert. This R-rated film includes Alice Krige and Kota Eberhardt.

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She Will is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Charlotte Colbert. This R-rated film boasts a cast that includes Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, and Malcolm McDowell. This movie is currently only available on Shudder.

Veronica (Alice Krige) is an actress recovering from a double mastectomy at a spiritual retreat in Scotland. With the help of her nurse, Desi (Kota Eberhardt), she slowly connects with the land and its dark legacy. However, the remake of her breakout role and the director who haunts her bring back troubling memories. But the land seeks to make her whole, no matter the cost.

Veronica staring in disguise
Alice Krige as Veronica

What I Like

This film is beautiful, giving the setting a character all its own. While not every frame delivers expert detail, the majority of She Will certainly evokes the viewer. This only adds to the horror, turning the supernatural into a force of nature itself.

The relationship between Desi and Veronica, changing throughout the film, brings a lot for the actresses to utilize. It should go without saying that Malcolm McDowell amplifies every scene he’s in.

I wouldn’t call this an arthouse film, but it centers itself on womanhood interestingly and artfully. This includes darker subjects of exploitation, specifically in the film industry, through Veronica’s personal journey.

Desi looking out a car window
Kota Eberhardt as Desi

What I Dislike, or Food for Thought

She Will deals with heavy subject matter. As alluded to earlier, Veronica’s journey implies many things that will be hard for some viewers. There is also an attempted assault.

Malcolm McDowell plays an eccentric director, but I would have liked to see him without the public persona. For the most part, the viewer hears rumors but only see the friendly facade.

While the subject matter and visuals can be intense, I wouldn’t exactly call the film frightening.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Where She Will might lack in horror, it makes up for in the stunning visuals and execution. Alice Krige plays a dynamic character who brings to life Veronica’s struggles. If one fancies a journey of self-discovery and empowerment like Midsommar, She Will might fill that niche.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

The Last of Us: Episode 3: Long, Long Time

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One of the first mentions of Bill and Frank in HBO’s The Last of Us is in episode one, when Ellie discovers that Joel and Tess communicate with men over the radio via 60’s-80’s pop songs. Rewind to the end of the episode, when Depeche Mode’s 80’s hit “Never Let Me Down Again” plays. Bill and Frank are in some sort of trouble. In the third episode of this series, “Long, Long Time,” we find out what that trouble was.

*WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS HEAVY SPOILERS*

The Dead Can’t Get Infected

Let me preface by saying that however you think this episode is going to be, you’re most likely very, very wrong.

“Long, Long Time,” begins shortly after Joel and Ellie are forced to leave Tess and escape the Boston capitol building. They are in the forest, prepping for another long journey ahead of them. As they walk, we learn more backstory on the origin of the Cordyceps pandemic. “Who was the first to bite? Was it monkeys? I bet it was monkeys,” Ellie says. But Joel explains no, it wasn’t monkeys. Rather, the disease spread through basic food products, like flour or sugar. Then the cordyceps mutated as flour, sugar, biscuit and pancake batter hit the store shelves that Thursday before the outbreak, infecting everyone who purchased those products. “That makes more sense,” Ellie somberly admits.

Joel explains the origin of the burnt up dead bodies of non-infected people

Eventually, they find a picked-over abandoned grocery store, where Joel hides his assault rifle and green toolbox underneath the floorboards. While Joel is looking around the store for supplies, Ellie heads to a room in the back and finds a hidden basement. Unbeknownst to Joel, she crawls inside and comes face to face with an infected. Luckily, Ellie has the advantage; the infected is crushed by a pile of rocks and has no chance of escaping. Ellie walks over to it, cuts her knife across its face, then stabs it to death. Her first kill.

Once the two are done with the store, they continue on their journey to Bill and Frank’s, whom we finally get to meet.

Meet Bill

It’s September 30, 2003, four days after the outbreak. Bill (Nick Offerman), a burly survivalist, is hiding in his bunker, watching the cameras planted outside his house. FEDRA is taking survivors to a Quarantine Zone (QZ). Once Bill confirms he is alone, he makes the town his own.

Four years of isolation pass and we witness all the work Bill has put in to protect his home from infected and raiders alike. He is a hardened man who is afraid of nothing. He has safe-proofed his home with trip wires, high voltage electric fences and trap holes. When an uninfected man on his way to Boston suddenly falls into one of the holes, Bill’s entire world changes. The man is named Frank (Murray Bartlett), and he and Bill quickly become infatuated with one another. Before we know it, another three years have passed and Frank is still living with Bill. Their contrasting personalities compliment each other as they protect the neighborhood together. And Frank’s desire to meet knew people overcomes Bill’s tenacity for seclusion. Thus, the origin of their partnership with Joel and Tess.

PlayStation vs. HBO

“Long, Long Ride” is brutal in the most unexpected ways. In the playstation game, we meet Bill after he saves Joel and Ellie from a swarm of infected after Joel gets caught in one of Bill’s traps. He takes them back to a hideout, where Joel picks up ammo, can update his weapons at a workbench, and receives a shotgun and nail bomb recipe. Meanwhile, Bill and Ellie, being the stubborn characters that they are, are at odds with each other throughout their entire journey together.

It is in this saga with Bill that we come across a Bloater, the most aggressive infected character in the first Last of Us game. Finally, the trio make it to Bill’s home, where they find Frank’s lifeless body hanging from a ceiling. He became infected and chose to end his life before turning into an unrecognizable monster.

Bill and Frank bond over Linda Ronstadt.

None of this happens in “Long, Long Time.” While the game hints at Bill being gay through Frank’s suicide note and a male porn magazine that Ellie stole from Bill’s hideout, there is not any other mention of it. He refers to Frank as his “partner” and nothing else. While it is clear that Frank and Bill were in a relationship, it was not a very loving one judging by the hatefulness toward Bill in Frank’s suicide note.

However, in the HBO show, Bill and Frank’s relationship is healthy and loving, including their fights. “Long, Long Time” presents a refreshing depiction of healthy masculinity and sexuality that stays authentic to the characters and their stories.

Another difference from the game is that the only interaction between Bill and Joel in episode three is when they meet for the first time, almost ten years after the outbreak, at a small dinner party at Bill and Frank’s house. While it would have been fun to see more interaction between Bill and Joel in the show, their lack of shared screen-time doesn’t downplay the importance they have in each other’s lives. This is pertinent to a decision Joel makes about whether to keep traveling with Ellie, and it happens in the end of the episode, when Bill and Frank are both dead.

“I hope he never lets me down again.”

Bill is a character who means business and doesn’t care much for the people with whom he shares this world. Nick Offerman took this characterization and ran with it, transforming into the most believable performance of Bill any Last of Us fan could ask for. He is a delightful live-action version of this bitter, coldhearted character.

And yet, there is so much to Bill we don’t know about that HBO was determined to show us. Yes, Bill is an angry reclusive survivalist who was “happy when the world ended.” He is not afraid to shoot down trespassers, infected or not, and exhibits a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag in his bunker that is filled floor to ceiling with an array of guns and other weaponry. But after he meets Frank, it turns out that Bill is also sensitive, sweet and filled with unwavering protective love.

Offerman and Bartlett’s chemistry with one another is beautiful. Bartlett brings Frank to life as more than just a man who hated Bill. He has a rich, cultured personality, is full of love and hope. Perhaps the most heartwarming part of the episode is when Frank surprises Bill with a garden of strawberries in their backyard. After a decade of rations and frozen meals, one can only imagine the bliss of eating freshly picked fruit for the first time since the world’s end. With the sun’s rays beaming through the trees and small bugs floating around them, Offerman and Bartlett performed this scene with such sincerity and love that it felt like we, the audience, were right there with them.

“Long, Long Time” ends with Joel and Ellie finally making it to Bill and Frank’s home. Here, all the flowers are dead, an unfinished dinner is caked with mold and a note to Joel is left on the kitchen table. Bill left all his belongings to Joel, including his beloved truck.

The Verdict

“Long, Long Time” is devastating. Offerman and Bartlett’s performances, coupled with the heartbreaking score and thoughtful film editing, create an unexpected love story in a gruesome, ruthless world. All the while, the world-building continues, the story progresses and Joel and Ellie’s bond slowly grows stronger. While there are moments of dialogue identical to the game, this episode is ultimately original. In other words: it is tv filmmaking at its finest. It asks audiences to trust the writers with any creative liberties they’ll take with the show. I would say this request for trust is justified.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

It is in this part in the game where Joel and Ellie meet Sam and Henry. Will we meet them in the next episode? We won’t find out until next week. So until then, make sure you check out the other shows and games we’re consuming at HauntedMTL.

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Movies n TV

Marionette, a Film Review

Marionette is a 2020 psychological thriller directed by Elbert Van Strien. This R-rated film stars Thekla Reuten and Elijah Wolf.

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Marionette is a 2020 psychological thriller directed by Elbert Van Strien. The film stars Thekla Reuten, Elijah Wolf, and Emun Elliott. As of this review, this R-rated film is available on Amazon Prime, Shudder, and AMC+.

Dr. Marianne Winter (Thekla Reuten) moves to Scotland, having found an opening for her practice. As a therapist, she begins to meet with her clients and adjust to her new life. However, one of her clients, a troubled boy named Manny (Elijah Wolf), has the whole institution frightened. As she soon learns, the boy knows too much and has a wicked temper.

Thekla Reuten as Dr. Marianne Winter looking at Manny's drawing
Thekla Reuten as Dr. Marianne Winter

What I Like

Few films make me feel the spiraling madness of the protagonist. Marionette sits as one such example. The growing evidence facing her leaves the audience as uncertain as the protagonist. And as she becomes more extreme, we fear if she’s right or wrong.

While not too exceptional, lovely visuals throughout the film reflect the mood and situations nicely. From white rooms to stormy nights, many scenes bring life a character’s inner state. Some might find this “on the nose,” but the premise and execution highlight these moments.

Elijah Wolf as Manny, drawing a picture with a sinister glare
Elijah Wolf as Manny

What I Dislike

Taking the premise at face value, I find it strange that Dr. Marianne Winter would be the main character. Without spoiling anything, the end makes me reflect a little harder against some potential interpretations.

This leads to a somewhat ambiguous element of the film. When a film has ambiguity, all parts should be possible. However, this doesn’t feel true for Marionette.

Kraken eating a boat icon
Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Marionette is an interesting and rewarding experience. While some elements don’t tie perfectly with the conclusion, it will have you questioning what is and isn’t real. For a psychological thriller, it’s hard to ask for more. While the film won’t be ideal for everyone, those interested should certainly give it a watch.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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